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Volunteers Prepare Meal For Hundreds Of San Diego Homeless People Downtown

Evening Edition

Just Call Us Volunteers have been serving Thanksgiving meals to San Diego's homeless people downtown for seven years. It all started when the group's founder didn't have a place to go for Thanksgiving. They've now served more than 26,000 meals to people in need.

Most of the ingredients for this turkey feast are made from scratch, just like grandma's. What really makes this volunteer effort different is some people are learning cooking skills for the first time.

"I don't really cook normally so it was a really good chance," said Natalie Ann Garcia. She came from San Francisco to volunteer along with her mother and two sisters, who worked the prep line.

"It's really a great experience, cutting the food and the seasonings and fresh ingredients, I was really impressed," Garcia said.

The turkeys were donated by employees from a San Diego hotel downtown. They will feed about 600 people from the Alpha Project's winter homeless shelter and Neil Good Daycare Center downtown. Just Call Us Volunteers come from San Diego and beyond, says volunteer coordinator Angie Brewer.

"People are away from their families or they want to bring their families here. They also want to bring their kids and do something together," Brewer said. Feeding homeless people is a big part of it, but inspiring people to volunteer is another.

"Getting them out of their comfort zone, letting them be a part of their community and understand what's going on. For us it's about feeding the homeless and the volunteers as well," Brewer said.

Chuck Samuelson is one of the many volunteers preparing turkey and all the fixings.

"I was out of work for almost a year and I got tired of spending my days on Facebook asking people to hire me, so I decided to get off the couch, come down here and help Julie and her team and volunteer," Samuelson said.

Samuelson says you just never know who you might meet. Chef Julie Darling gave him a referral and he's working again. She's the founder of Just Call Us Volunteers.

"We're a small nonprofit and we don't have much overhead and the donations that we do get go to pay the rent for the office building and the rest goes toward the food we serve," Darling said. She says they'll spend about $1,300 out of pocket this year to serve Thanksgiving dinner.

They had an overwhelming number of volunteers for Thanksgiving. Just Call Us Volunteers is now looking for Christmas help. They also provide meals to the homeless throughout the year.

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